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How to Have a Healthy 2015: REAL Tips from an Orthopedist

The New Year is here once again.  (Yes, it still happens every 365 days…)

Many of us make healthy resolutions every year, stick to them for a while, and inevitably break them. Sound familiar? Whether stress, overscheduling, lack of willpower or loss of motivation is the culprit, it’s easy to drop those good habits you’ve worked so diligently to set in motion for the New Year.

As a medical professional, my advice is to start simple. There are a number of basic behaviors that, when truly adhered to, can significantly improve your health and how you feel.  Pick and choose a few you can stick with, and see what happens as we jump into 2015. Here are my top tips:

Go to bed earlier

Bottom line, you need sleep.  Try to get to bed no later than 10:00 p.m. and you will be surprised how much of a difference you will notice in the morning.  This especially true if you plan to get up in the morning to work out.  That extra hour makes a world of difference when the alarm rings at 5:00 a.m.

Get up earlier and eat breakfast

Set the clock just 15-20 minutes earlier and allow yourself time to get up, get ready, and eat at a reasonable pace.  Breakfast is the one meal you have complete control over.  Lunch can run late.  Dinner depends on when you get home.  Breakfast depends on the alarm clock.  Start the day rested and with some quality calories.   One favorite consists of simple oatmeal.  Mix ½ cup rolled oats, dash cinnamon, 1 tsp maple syrup or brown sugar, ¼ to ½ cup milk, and whatever else you want (walnuts, pecans, blueberries, raisins, etc.) and microwave for 1minute 30 seconds.  Not much of an appetite in the morning?  Mix together a smoothie instead with your favorite fruits, juices, yogurts, etc.  Believe it or not, carrots and avocados are especially good in smoothies.  Carrots add sweetness and avocados add a creamy consistency that makes the smoothie taste like a milkshake.

Give up sweetened beverages

Sweet tea is the guilty pleasure of the South but it is loaded with empty calories.  Tea itself has many benefits including mental alertness, decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and even Alzheimer’s.  The sugar adds empty calories, though.  Other beverages such as juice drinks and soft drinks may add 200-400 extra calories to you day depending on how much you drink. Without doing a thing other than giving up the sweetened beverages you have already dropped 1000 calories from your week!

Give up diet soda

Artificial sweeteners in the diet soda confuse your body.  Like sugar, they can trigger insulin production that sends your body into fat storage mode.  Artificial sweeteners also may leave the body craving the sugar it did not receive and lead to the craving for more calories.  Diet sodas have no nutritional value and what’s more, the acid in the soda may lead to tooth enamel erosion causing cavities and tooth decay.  Bottom line, opt for water with a slice of lemon or lime.

Find a friend to work out with

You are much more inclined to get up and go work out if you have someone to be accountable to.  It also makes the time pass quickly sharing a morning or evening conversation with a friend.  Better yet, make it a date and work out with your significant other or spouse.  It doesn’t even have to be the same workout.  Sometimes just leaving together and knowing the other is there exercising too can be motivation enough.

Rethink and redefine “Exercise”

You don’t need fancy exercise equipment to get in shape.  Anything that gets the heart rate up and sustained for at least 15 minutes a day can qualify as exercise.  Think about what you like to do.  Take it one step further and think about what you do for your daily activities.  Do you work in a factory?  Do you lift heavy boxes all day?  Do you sit at a desk?  See each task as an exercise bout or mini workout.  Do you like to dance or go bowling?  Join a league or dance club that meets regularly.  Check into your local community to see what is available through the Parks & Recreation Dept.

Make it an appointment

We make appointments and reminders in our calendars for dentist visits, teacher conferences, and a host of other obligations.  Sometimes we need to schedule exercise also.  Put it on the agenda and set aside time for it.  Make sure everyone else in the family knows about it to and that it is a priority and can’t be missed.


Scot Rheinecker, PA-C, is a physician assistant with OrthoCarolina Concord. Besides general orthopedics and sports medicine, he is a musculoskeletal ultrasound specialist, utilizing ultrasound for guided joint & bursa injections and diagnosis of tendon tears. Scot received his Master of Medical Science, cum laude from Emory University School of Medicine’s Physician Assistant Program.  He is a Certified Athletic Trainer as well and received his BS in Kinesiology/Athletic Training from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana and Master of Science in Exercise Science-Sports Medicine from the University of Iowa.

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